Three weeks into the NYPD's "Bicycle Safe Passage Plan," and on the heels of the 16th and 17th cyclist fatalities of the year, some police officers still can't be bothered to learn the basic rules of the road.
On Wednesday, two uniformed officers were caught on video insisting that cyclists are legally prohibited from riding in certain intersections, claiming they should instead dismount their bikes and walk when approaching a bike lane on the opposite side of the street.
That misinformation was dispensed in the immediate aftermath of a crash that knocked a cyclist off his bike at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 25th Street—just two blocks from where Robyn Hightman was killed last month.
One person at the location was hospitalized, according to a fire department spokesperson. Witnesses claimed that the cyclist was hit by the driver of an MTA Access-A-Ride vehicle, who then fled the scene. The NYPD had no information about the incident. A spokesperson for the MTA told Gothamist, “We have no record that this incident involved an Access-a-Ride vehicle, but we take a report like this very seriously and it’s under investigation."
This is after the #bikenyc had been loaded into ambulance @NYPDHighway asking if I knew where it had occurred. I had pictures, so was sharing what I had seen... @jangelooff @dahvnyc @StreetsblogNYC @NYCSpeakerCoJo pic.twitter.com/0nbrOL99yu
— Hilda (@HildaBikes) July 24, 2019
Footage of the subsequent exchange was captured by cyclist Hilda Cohen, who notes that the second officer was wearing a white shirt, indicating a minimum rank of lieutenant.
A partial transcript:
Officer 1: If you are going westbound to northbound, you're supposed to walk your bike over to the bike lane
Cohen: You are not.
Officer 1: Yes you are.
Cohen: You're supposed to cross, to get off your bike and walk?
Officer 1: Yes absolutely.
Officer 2: For your safety.
Cohen: You've got to be kidding me. Why don't you tell the drivers to get out and cross the crosswalk by pushing their car?
Officer 1: We're not going to have a whole debate right now about this.
Officer 2: Listen we don't make these rules. The Department of Transportation makes these rules.
The DOT does not make these rules, as these rules do not exist. There is no scenario in which a cyclist would have to dismount their bike while making a turn. Unless there is an emergency or explicit signage indicating otherwise, there is no situation that a cyclist would ever be legally required to dismount their bike, according to Steve Vaccaro, an attorney and safe streets advocate who often represents cyclists.
"These cops don't know the law so they make it up as they go along—that's what happened here," Vaccaro told Gothamist after watching the video. "It's patronizing."
Following an uptick in cyclist fatalities in the first half of the year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an operation to crack down on reckless drivers, along with an "educational outreach" component for all road users. Later today, the mayor is expected to release a five-year, $58.7 million "cyclist safety plan," which will reportedly focus on adding protected bike lanes, redesigning intersections, and stepping up police enforcement at dangerous crossings.
Asked if he was concerned about the NYPD spreading inaccurate information to New Yorkers, and whether the forthcoming safety plan might involve retraining police officers on street safety laws, a spokesperson for the mayor referred us to the police department.
Multiple comment requests to NYPD were ignored.